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Poor defense continues to cost Cardinals

Team commits season-high four errors against Blue Jays
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- The look the Cardinals sought to leave behind in 2016 has instead trailed them into this season, as they continue to get hurt by poor fundamental play and a lack of execution.

The same sort of sloppy defense that hampered the club last year has shown up again, with Tuesday's 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Blue Jays serving as one of the most glaring episodes yet. The Cardinals committed a season-high four errors, including two that led to unearned runs.

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ST. LOUIS -- The look the Cardinals sought to leave behind in 2016 has instead trailed them into this season, as they continue to get hurt by poor fundamental play and a lack of execution.

The same sort of sloppy defense that hampered the club last year has shown up again, with Tuesday's 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Blue Jays serving as one of the most glaring episodes yet. The Cardinals committed a season-high four errors, including two that led to unearned runs.

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"We still have a long way to go, and we need to clean up things on a consistent basis," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's it. I know every one of us demands that of ourselves. We have another level there. We've been fortunate to pull out some wins even without some clean play, and we have to keep our nose down and keep going until we get it."

Work hasn't been the issue. Players and staff gathered on the field more than four hours before first pitch on Tuesday to go through extra defensive work. Such exercises have become commonplace for the Cardinals this season, as they believe that repetition will lead to results.

So far, however, there hasn't been such payoff.

The Cardinals' first error was hardly preventable. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty's throw trying to get Ezequiel Carrera advancing from first to third hit Carrera on the helmet as he slid in. Carerra scored, and Jose Bautista advanced to second, before later scoring.

"It's bad luck coupled with poor defense," Piscotty said. "I think you can survive with one or the other, but when both happen, it's tough to win ballgames. We're going to continue to work to clean it up, and hopefully that bad luck turns into good luck."

The Cardinals worked around an error by third baseman Jedd Gyorko in the seventh, but that wouldn't be the case two innings later when a wild pickoff throw by reliever Brett Cecil gifted the Blue Jays the go-ahead run. Incidentally, Cecil and the rest of the Cardinals' pitchers had been practicing pickoff plays as part of their afternoon work.

Toronto scored the winning run in the 11th when first baseman Jose Martinez couldn't glove Aledmys Diaz's wide throw to first with two outs. Martinez tried to make a lunging catch while keeping his foot on the base, but by missing the ball entirely, he allowed Marcus Stroman to score from second.

Martinez, still relatively inexperienced at first, acknowledged that if were to do it over again, he would have come off the base to make the catch. Doing so wouldn't have netted him the out at first, but it would have prevented the run from scoring.

"That's the better decision," Martinez said. "That ball should be caught."

The Cardinals likely would have had a stronger defensive alignment Tuesday had Matt Carpenter not been serving a one-game suspension. But that doesn't explain the team's overall issues in the field. The Cardinals entered Tuesday ranked 28th in the Majors in both defensive efficiency and defensive runs saved.

Along with the team's continued trouble to hit with runners in scoring position (.202 average) and frequent baserunning blunders, it's hardly been the crisp start for a team that billed itself on being fundamentally sound.

"Again, talking about that offseason narrative of better baserunning, smarter baserunning, cleaner defense, we're not quite there," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But I think everybody, from the coaches on down, understand what we need to work toward and will continue to do so."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

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